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Mystery mounds of Addison County

This area is distinguished by an interesting terrain feature that people don’t often talk about. Dotting the landscape are what I called “mystery mounds” — lumps of earth that are clearly not natural in origin. Resembling ancient Native American ceremonial mounds, these can be found all through Vermont, but there is a particular concentration of them in Addison County.

Charlotte mound.jpg
A “mystery mound” on public land in Charlotte VT, near the modern-day baseball diamond.

It is known that the mounds are not Native American in origin. These mounds are typically rectangular, low, and vary in size from about 20 feet by 30 feet, to as much as 100 feet square — nothing like Native American mounds found in other parts of the country. They are more reminiscent of Roman earthworks found in parts of Europe.

I find the diversity of these mounds to be fascinating, but the fact that no one really bothers to research them is even more interesting. To be fair, the mounds are subtle enough that many people don’t notice them, or perhaps think that a given mound is a natural phenomenon. But when you begin to realize that they can be found in backyards all over Addison county, it becomes clear that some forces were at work to form them, other than natural geological phenomenae.

Were they in fact built by a previously unknown prehistoric people? Are they just heaps of discarded trash, like the shell middens found in Florida, or do they contain human remains (more likely, in my opinion).

Next summer, I am planning to work on a book which photo-documents and describes about two dozen of the most spectacular and well-revealed examples of mystery mounds in Addison County. There are many more, but I hope that by publicizing this unique feature of Addison County, the region will become as well known for mounds as Madison County (IA) is known for its bridges. Perhaps someday, there will even be a movie resulting. The region could certainly use the extra tourism. 😉

We were going to drop in on the Northeast Street Rod Nationals today. It’s being held at the same fairgrounds as the 2003 WBCCI International Rally, just about 20 miles from here. But the weather is gray and rainy today, not great for walking around the fairgrounds and seeing the cool cars. If things clear up a bit maybe we’ll still go, and if so I’ll snap some photos.

2 Responses to “Mystery mounds of Addison County”

  1. Andy Says:

    In addition to ground-penetrating radar as a non-invasive means of investigating the mounds, I saw a segment on some This Old House -type show where an operator set up a grid of metal stakes in the ground, and linked to some special electronics and a computer, it used variations in conductivity to make a rough 3D model of soil changes and hidden foundation stones. Looked like the image went 10 to 20 feet down. Depth may depend on the overall size of the grid of stakes. Something for you to check out, anyway.

  2. Andy Says:

    Sorry I didn’t get the joke. I think that one depended on local knowledge …
    And I guess you’re teaching us to read all the latest entries before sending a comment!

    But jeez, if somebody can did up a whale skeleton in the middle of a cornfield in Vt., who knows what can be buried in those valleys?